It's also why you're hearing new rumbling about what many Democrats consider the ultimate fix for the Washington-is-broken problem: eliminating the filibuster. A perennial complaint, unhappiness with the filibuster is likely to reach new heights among Democrats in the next few months. Already, the entire returning Democratic caucus has signed a letter by Sens. Carl Levin and Mark Warner calling for rules changes that will make it easier to kill filibusters. Some are also hoping to make it possible to change the Senate's rules with a simple majority vote, rather than the two-thirds vote required now. That way, Democrats could do anything they want, even without that 60-vote majority.
It won't happen; the votes aren't there. It could even be that Democrats are pushing the anti-filibuster argument so loudly because they know it won't happen. That way, they can position themselves as favoring "filibuster reform" with the comfort of knowing they'll still have the filibuster the next time they're in the minority, which might be soon.
Meanwhile, new voices are taking up the Washington-is-broken crusade. At the recent New York rollout of the Democratic-leaning group No Labels, speaker after speaker pushed the idea that "hyperpartisanship" in Washington has prevented elected leaders from "getting things done." They're looking for some still-unspecified new approach to break the partisan deadlock.
But why shouldn't it be hard to pass massively expensive legislation that fundamentally changes the lives of millions of Americans? If one party wins enough votes to pass bills on its own, as Democrats did in 2008, then it can do what it wants -- if it is prepared to pay the electoral price. But in a divided government, there must be some agreement between the parties before legislation can move forward. And if there isn't agreement, then maybe the legislation shouldn't move forward. When that happens, Washington isn't broken. It's working.
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